Murder suspect Adrian Agius is claiming that his rights were breached by recent court decisions citing public disorder as a primary ground for denying him bail.
Eight months since his arraignment alongside his brother Robert, their alleged associate Jamie Vella as well as George Degiorgio, the Ta’ Maksar brother is claiming that his continued arrest over his alleged role in a crime that happened six years ago is unlawful.
Adrian Agius is pleading not guilty to commissioning the murder of lawyer Carmel Chircop who was gunned down early morning on October 8, 2015 inside a Birkirkara garage complex.
He and his co-accused are facing charges linking them to the lawyer’s murder and the 2017 car bomb explosion that killed Daphne Caruana Galizia.
The magisterial inquiry into the 2015 murder has since been wrapped up and over 120 witnesses, including all civilians, have testified in the murder compilation currently presided by Magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo.
Agius’ first request for bail, filed in May, was turned down in view of the gravity of the charges besides the fact that proceedings were still at an early phase.
A second application filed in July was once again deemed to be premature, but the court also cited the notion of public disorder as an additional ground for denying Agius bail.
The third request in August was met with a similar approach, lending weight to the fear of public disturbance which could possibly ensue if the accused were to be released from preventive arrest.
That decision had prompted Agius’ lawyers to request the magistrate to grant a reference to the constitutional courts, claiming that the issue of public disorder could not be applied since it was not recognised under Maltese law as one of the grounds for denying bail.
But the request was rejected on Monday by Magistrate Farrugia Frendo during a hearing at the ongoing murder compilation.
The court decreed that the request for a constitutional reference that would suspend the criminal proceedings was vexatious.
The following day, the accused’s lawyers filed a separate case before the First Hall, Civil Court in its constitutional jurisdiction requesting the court to declare a breach of right and to grant adequate remedies accordingly.
Making reference to European case law, particularly the ECHR 1991 judgment in Letellier vs France and others that followed, lawyers Alfred Abela and René Darmanin argued that the position was “crystal clear”.
The notion of public disorder could only be considered as a ground for denying bail if recognised under domestic law.
The Criminal Code provisions on bail did not cite that notion as one of the grounds, argued the lawyers.
Had the legislator intended that, he would have said so, said the lawyers, drawing a comparison with the Immigration Act which expressly declared that the Immigration Appeals Board shall not grant release when that posed “a threat to public security or public order”.
Moreover, in respect of Adrian Agius, it could no longer be argued that proceedings were still at an early stage.
Besides, there were other murder suspects who have been granted bail over more recent crimes and no public disorder broke out.
Adrian Agius believed that no public disorder would ensue if he too were to be granted bail, said his lawyers.
Lawyers Alfred Abela and René Darmanin signed the application.